Novartis’ Cosentyx has become the first IL-17 inhibitor to win European approval for ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis, offering a novel approach to treating two of the most common inflammatory joint conditions in the region, for which there remains high unmet need.

The European Commission has expanded the drug’s use to include treatment of active AS in adults who not responded to conventional therapy, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and for the treatment of active PsA in adult patients when response to previous disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug therapy has been inadequate.

AS and PsA are life-long, painful and debilitating inflammatory diseases affecting the joints and/or spine which, if not treated effectively, can lead to irreversible damage from years of inflammation.

The approval of a new treatment approach is good news for the 270,000 people with AS and PsA in the UK, as many don’t respond well to existing treatments. According to data published in The Lancet, up to 40% of patients fail to respond sufficiently to treatment with anti-TNFs, underscoring the need for new options.

In clinical trials, Cosentyx (secukinumab) provided a significant reduction in the signs and symptoms of AS or PsA as early as weeks 1-3 after treatment initiation, sustained over two years. Up to 80% of AS patients given the drug showed no progression of spinal damage as measured by x-ray over two years while, in PsA, 84% showed no progression of joint damage, Novartis said, highlighting the drug’s potential.

Cosentyx is also the first IL-17 inhibitor to win EU and US approvals for plaque psoriasis, and is widely expected to achieve blockbuster status by 2020.